VRG's 1999 Essay Contest Winners

By Gabriella Neusner

Age 7, Old Lyme, Connecticut

I never antended (sic) to become a vegetarian it just happened one day when I was walking to the library from school. I saw a book about animals on the shelf and since I liked animals so much I took it down. I started skiming (sic) through the pages. Suddenly I relised (sic) what the real subject was. It was about how people slotter (sic) animals for food. I decided to take the book out even though it made me feel bad then I checked it out and waited for my mom to pick me up. As soon as I got home I ran to my room to go read my book. I learned that people put calfs (sic) and pigs in cages so small they can't turn around and they force them to live in the cages and they kill them. The treatment of chickens is even worse. What they do is cram them into small cages in bunches. Lots of the chickens try to peck each other. If the farmer sees that then he'll cut their beaks off so they can't peck. Later I herd (sic) my mom calling my name. I went downstairs. It was time for dinner. On the table I saw a dish of chicken cutlets I couldn't bare (sic) to look at them. Then everyone took a cutlet but me. My mom asked me if I was going to eat. I told her about my book. She said ok and gave me something different. It was amazing how one book can really change your life.


By Kylie Magnuson

Age 14, Lincoln, Nebraska

I am from the American Midwest, where farming and beef industries are the big money. Steak houses are all over, and to go to a vegetarian restaurant is practically unheard of. When I go out to eat I have to search the menu for something that doesn't contain carnage. I often get made fun of for my choice of not to eat meat.

Vegetarianism is not well known about in the US. Most Americans think you have to eat meat to be healthy, and if you don't eat animal products you will just perish and die. These thoughts come from beef industries that promote the use of animal products, not ever considering the animals involved.

The animals that people eat are brutally murdered. Most animals in fact know that they have come to face their death when the time has come. Sometimes pigs are so scared that the workers have to use electric shock to get them off of the trucks and into the factories. The animals can hear the other animals being killed before them.

Most people do not know the harsh conditions of the animal farms. I, as a child, went into a pig factory and I had to wear bread bags on my feet so I wouldn't step in blood. At the time I didn't think about it. Even though I thought they were cute little animals, I didn't realize that every time I picked up a hot dog or even a slice of pepperoni pizza I was eating Babe.

The animals people eat are often forced to live in closed and dark areas, living in the other animals bowel movements. When veal is made, the marketers say that the cow lives extremely comfortably; but truly the animal is forced to live in a very small confined area where he cannot walk or barely even get up. Living in a small area is so that they keep the meat tender and soft.

Feeding livestock also depletes people from food. Up to 80% of the grain raised in the US is spent on feeding livestock; when in reality we could feed the hungry people of the world. So, in feeding Americans (most of which get more than enough food anyway), we are depleting other people of the food they have. There are also other foods that are healthier than beef products. But since most Americans are raised on beef they think it is the right way.

In America we work to try and stop racism and discriminating people, but when it comes down to it, we have started it up again. By going to a restaurant and not having anything that I am able to eat, I have been discriminated against. By going to a store and seeing a button that says "Meat is Dead," or "Vegetarian: Indian word for lousy hunter," there it is once more. Even knowing that I am not going to be safe at school from the discrimination of peers. I know that I am the stronger one for I do not sit there and tell them that meat is disgusting. I give them my reasons why I do not have the lifestyle of eating meat and why I think it is wrong. If they do not accept it, that is their problem.

Most think that I am not healthy, but in reality are all meat eaters really healthy? How many more chances of having a heart attack does a meat eater have then a vegetarian? So to tell me that I am not healthy is incredible hypocrisy. Like the web page Veggie Unite says, "There are healthy vegetarians and unhealthy vegetarians."

Another line that is often said to me when I say I am vegetarian is that, "I didn't come into this world at the head of the food chain to eat vegetables." Well, what did you come into this world for? I came into this world to make sure the generation after me will have a wonderful life, and I don't want to have to tell my children that the food they were eating once had a face.

I don't expect the world to up and change, but I do expect it to start somewhere. For everything and everyone who wants to change something, it has to start at the beginning. If parents give their children an option and if children knew they were eating poor Bessie, I am sure they would rethink. Children are a lot more open to suggestion then adults. They come with open minds into this world and are not afraid to share what they think is right.

So, those of us who want to change the world start where you think it would do the most help. Whether you want to change the books in your library or, like me, you want to change the eating habits of America start at the beginning. You can't expect to start anywhere else and have it change!


By Darby Ruggeri

Age 18, Old Town, Maine

Vegetarianism in My Family

Vegetarianism over the years has found its way into my household. Almost four years ago, my 11-year-old sister went to my mother and said, "Mom, I'm going to be a vegetarian." My sister had never been too keen on meat; I suppose she just did not like the taste of it. The surprising thing was, at least to me, was that her dislike for the taste was not her reasoning for abandoning meat.

My sister and I both grew up on a small farm in central Massachusetts. We had a garden and a few animals. I grew up around most of it, the goats, pigs, sheep, rabbits, and chicken. My mother would always tell me that when I was a baby she'd have me on one knee with a bottle in my mouth, and a baby goat on the other doing the same. My family had the majority of our animals when I was younger; we used the animals for milk, eggs, and meat. I was daddy's little girl, always wanting to help out. I had grown up in the farm environment so I understood why some of the animals would be missing come fall, and it never upset me. I had grown accustomed to that way of life. I would play with the sheep and rabbits, and come slaughter time, I longed to be old enough to pitch in. Now, some vegetarians would see this as morbid and cruel, but I feel a lot depends on the way you were brought up and the environment surrounding you. I never viewed it as cruelty since the killing was done in the most humane fashion possible and the meat would stock our freezer for the rest of the year. At least we know what kind of life the animal lived before it died, unlike the stuff you buy in your local supermarket. At any rate, this is the lifestyle I grew up with.

My sister on the other hand, who was four years my junior, grew up at the tail end of our family's Massachusetts farming days. By the time my sister had started school we had sold most of our livestock, my parents were both at work and a little too busy for the farm life on the side. Eventually we sold all of our livestock and lived the normal life.

When my sister was eight years old, we moved to the state of Maine. My parents chose a house in a small township. We had plenty of land, a barn, and more free time. Soon we were back in the livestock business. My parents, my sister, and I began raising rabbits. Mostly the animals were used for show or as pets, but some were also used for food. I accepted the thought since, as I said, I grew up in that environment, but my sister was never too keen on it. After a year or so we bought a few sheep and soon began raising them as well, both for wool and as a food source. By age 11, my sister drew the line. She told my mother she wanted to be vegetarian. She did not have a problem with the family raising animal for food, but she made the decision to no longer eat it, or any form of meat.

My sister has been vegetarian for about four years now. She eats everything from pastas to tofu to vegetarian buffalo wings. She reads her ingredients and has not slipped once since her first day as a vegetarian. My sister has read all she could find, has visited a dietitian, and lives like a perfectly healthy teenager. My family supports her in every way, although the rest of us still eat meat. Many of her friends' parents buy foods that she can eat and some of her friends have acquired the taste for tofu burgers and vegetarian chicken nuggets. So many of the people I know have said at one time or another, "I want to be vegetarian," but my sister is the only one I know who has stuck with it through it all. I really admire her for all she has done.